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An Author And His Work: A Kid In King Arthur’s Court Essay, Research Paper An Author and His Work :A Kid in King Arther’s Court May 26, 1999 Research Term Paper An Author and His Work Mark Twain

An Author And His Work: A Kid In King Arthur’s Court Essay, Research Paper

An Author and His Work :A Kid in King Arther’s Court

May 26, 1999

Research Term Paper An Author and His Work Mark Twain

was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens to John Marshal

Clemens and Jane Lampton Clemens. He was born on

November 30, 1835 in a small city called Florida, Missouri,

which had a population of one hundred people. “I increased

the population by one percent,” he said. “It is more than many

of the best men in history could have done for a town?” (Cox,

7) Samuel, however did not live most of his life in Florida, but

moved around throughout his life. His family moved to

Hannibal, MO when he was four years old and that was

where he went to school. For the reason that there were no

public schools in Hannibal at the time, Sam was sent to a

private school taught by Mrs. Horr. He had to leave this

school at twelve years of age when his father died. There

wasn’t much money left to support the Clemens after John

Clemens died so Sam was forced to be apprenticed to Joseph

Ament. Ament owned a print shop and a newspaper called

Hannibal Courier. Here was where Sam would cut the last

strings connecting him to his childhood and become much of

an adult. The apprenticeship led Samuel to fame and fortune

in the future and opened his eyes to the world of literature.

(Cox, 23) The death of Samuel’s father had a strong effect on

him. Although he wasn’t very close to John, Sam felt guilt that

he hadn’t been a better son to his father and promised his

mother at the side of John’s body not to brake her heart and

to be a “better boy.” (Cox, 23) His time spent in Ament’s shop

was not paid, but he was fed and clothed. He learned to set

type and sometimes worked as reporter or assistant editor.

Clemens found a great interest in reading during this time and

he truly read everything he could get his hands on. He also

began enjoying reading a large amount of history. Being

brought up in a family of slaveholders, Clemens experienced

a lot of brutality and injustice toward slaves. He was taught

that it was completely normal and legal for white men to kill

“niggers” over an awkwardly done job and he didn’t argue.

However, as a little boy, he felt inside that what his father did

was wrong and immoral. Many incidents and adventures with

slaves that young Sam witnessed wound up in his books

decades later. Clemens left Ament’s shop and went to work

with Orion, his older brother, in 1851. His brother offered to

pay three and a half-dollars a week but money never seemed

to be around. Orion owned a newspaper called the Hannibal

Journal and he hired both Sam and his younger brother Henry

to be typesetters. However, Sam did more than typeset for

Orion. He also wrote for the Journal occasionally. Usually he

wrote humorous sketches, but sometimes he also wrote

satirical stories, local news reports, and poetry. Samuel first

used the pen name Mark Twain for his letters published in the

Virginia City, Territorial Enterprise in 1863. Mark Twain is a

steamboater’s term meaning 2 fathoms or 12 feet of water.

Samuel’s childhood was probably where many of his ideas

and stories all originated. He used his adventures as a boy in

many novels, such as Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Life on

the Mississippi, and many others. There was an adventure

everyday during his life in Hannibal and his friends were just

as mischievous as Sam was. The novel A Yankee in King

Arthur’s Court was strongly influenced by Mark Twain’s life. It

showed the battle that was happening inside Twain between

his different feelings for slavery. It also showed Mark’s hate

towards any sort of authority. (Cox, 169) This was probably

provoked by his early days with his slaveholding family. He

saw many times as a child what “authority” could do to

innocent souls and it stayed in his heart for many decades.

The Civil War broke out in 1861 and Samuel Clemens

decided to side with the Confederacy unlike his whole family.

He joined a volunteering unit and fought with the Marion

Rangers for some time. Most of this time the small unit was

retreating and Sam said, “I could have become a [good]

soldier myself, if I had waited, I had got part of it learned, I

knew more about retreating than the man that invented

retreating.” (Cox, 49) During his life, Mark Twain always had

some trouble financially. He had had many jobs, but he was

often in need of money. When he worked as a pilot on the

Mississippi, Twain was receiving no pay for he was an

apprentice. During this time, he took a job watching freight

piles during the night for some money. He later said “? I can

trace the effect of those nights through most of my books in

one way and another.” (Cox, 41) After Civil War began,

Samuel had to find a new job for all river traffic was halted.

His brother, Orion was appointed secretary of the newly

created Territory of Nevada and he asked Sam to come

along. At first, Samuel was only going to stay in Nevada for

three months, but the three months later turned into six years.

In Nevada, Mark tried his luck in getting rich quickly by mining

and did not succeed. However, his years there gave him

much to write about. His first book was written during his time

there and was based on a fellow miner’s story. The book was

called “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras Country

and Other Sketches.” Throughout Twain’s life, there were

many deaths in his family. He felt depressed often because of

that and each death made him more pessimistic. During his

life, he experienced the death of his younger brother Henry,

his oldest daughter Susy, his son Langdon, his father John,

his other daughter Jean, his wife Olivia, his mother Jane, his

friend Charles Dudley Warner, and his brother Orion. Mark

Twain was widely recognized during his life. He was very

famous for his lectures, his humor, his criticisms, his novels,

and his articles. Twain wasn’t just famous in the United States

but also in foreign countries like England as well. During his

later years, Twain wrote many angry articles and editorials

denouncing government and sometimes Southern beliefs. He

received many angry letters during his last years of writing.

The deaths of more and more loved ones made him mad and

he expressed his emotions through his writing. After Twain’s

death however, his books live on and are world famous. He

showed the readers many things about themselves and

others. Not only are his novels still read but they are also still

discussed, criticized, analyzed, and examined repeatedly. His

works are so deep that just one look at a novel won’t let you

in on Twain’s reason for writing it. Howells said at Twain’s

funeral, ” ? Clemens was sole, incomparable, the Lincoln of

our literature.” (Cox, 220) The events in A Connecticut

Yankee in King Arthur’s Court take place in the sixth century

during the time of King Arthur. There are knights and ogres,

there are princes and princesses, and there are evil

magicians and immoral superstitions. In the sixth century,

there were no newspapers, no phones, no hygiene, no

cameras, and most importantly, no common sense. However,

this all changes when a Connecticut Yankee, Hank Morgan,

is hit in the head by a crowbar and wakes up in the sixth

century. He is a man of intellectual skills and he’s in deep

trouble. Hank is stuck in the age of violence, slavery, and

absolute non-sense without any idea of how to deal with the

situation. Hank finds a friend and decides to turn the savage

kingdom into a civilization and a republic. He sets up

underground factories in fear of the church and sets up secret

schools as well. He finds men who he believes to be worthy

and sends them to these schools. While trying to keep in

command over the kingdom, he is challenged to a battle and

has to go out on a voyage to become “worthy” of the

challenger. His adventures throughout the voyage are

sometimes life threatening, but using modern science, he

always manages to survive. Mark Twain uses satire and irony

in describing the beliefs of the common people. He shows

how silly their reasoning is using humor. He shows that, while

the nation is suffering from hunger and poverty, the people

are still loyal to the nobility. The nobility, which makes up five

percent of the nation, is eating up all the nations wealth while

the other ninety percent of the nation starve. The nation is

controlled by the five percent of the population that becomes

royalty by birth and doesn’t deserve it at all, while the rest of

the population have to labor and toil their whole lives and do

not get treated fairly. The plot, of course, is not realistic, but

very satisfying to read. It’s very funny and at the same time

serious. It discusses certain social issues that most people

notice but can’t say it the right way. Twain makes it exciting to

read, but if you look below the skin of the joke, you can notice

the point he’s trying to make about economics and

aristocracy. When the king goes with Hank to explore his

kingdom in disguise, he is captured and sold as a slave.

Twain uses this to show that a king is just as good as any

slave and that the only thing that separates him from a slave

is his title. He says in his book “?there is nothing diviner

about a king than there is about a tramp, after all. He is just a

cheap and hollow artificiality when you do not know he is a

king. But reveal his quality, and dear me it takes your very

breath away to look at him.” The major theme of this novel is

the authority and aristocracy issue, but there are other small

themes hidden under Twain’s humor. One such theme is the

theme of work. Twain discusses work and pay in this

statement “The law of work does seem utterly unfair — but

there it is: ? the higher the pay in enjoyment the worker gets

out of it, the higher shall be his pay in cash also.” The

characters in this book were introduced and described

through their actions and through dialogue. The main

character, Hank Morgan, was almost absolutely a believable

character. Only a couple of his traits wouldn’t be very

believable. One being that he didn’t go crazy as soon as he

found out what had happened. If he was a real person, I don’t

think he would just accept the fact that he was in the sixth

century so quickly. I think that his other traits were pretty

much acceptable. He had normal human being traits like

being panicky and he wasn’t all good or all evil. There were

parts of him that weren’t angel-like. For example, he never just

proved somebody wrong; he always had to make the person

feel low and defeated. The other characters, like Sandy and

King Arthur, weren’t really believable. Compared to what is

considered normal now, they were actually not realistic at all.

However, the story takes place in the sixth century where the

characters would be more realistic than if compared to what is

considered normal now. Despite the fact that it was sixth

century, I still wouldn’t be able to imagine real people being

like King Arthur or Sandy. They were stereotypical just like all

the knights, Merlin, Clarence, and the other characters. This

novel wasn’t biographical at all. It showed Twain’s view on

certain issues, but it did not describe Twain’s life. The only

thing that might have been at all autobiographical, was the

fact that Hank Morgan didn’t fit in with his surroundings and

was trying to change everything around him. Maybe Twain

felt that he was surrounded by people who couldn’t

understand him. Maybe he only felt secure with several of his

friends just like Hank thought only certain men were “worthy”

in the sixth century. Hank Morgan was finally returned to the

nineteenth century after war broke out in Camelot. During that

war, nineteenth century science and fifty-four young men

stood against all of England’s knights and won a flawless

victory. Hank was injured and Merlin cast a spell on him that

brought him back to nineteenth century. Twain’s purpose in

writing this novel was to show the contrast between the sixth

and nineteenth centuries and to show the reader that similar

problems exist in both these times. He also brought up some

very serious social issues in a humorous way. This novel is

truly a work of genius. I enjoyed reading the book a lot. It was

exciting and humorous and the plot was really amusing. I

especially admired the way Twain wrote the same things that

wouldn’t be interesting if they weren’t written the way they

were. The way Twain described how Hank was

uncomfortable in the armor was an example of how as simple

a matter as that can be written so that it sounds interesting

and amusing. The way Twain put humor into sixth century

economy when talking to Dowley about wages was also

excellent. He showed how ignorant the sixth century men

were concerning economy. To them, the higher the wages,

the better, and it doesn’t matter what the prices are. No matter

how hard Hank tried to show that if prices are high, then

wages mean nothing, Dowley couldn’t understand. [Just in

case...]

“Clemens, Samuel Langhorne.” Webster’s American Biographies. Pg. 207 “Clemens, Samuel

Langhorne (Mark Twain, pen name).” Biography Online

Database. Online. America Online.

http://search.biography.com/print_record.pl?id=13667. 6

Feb.1999

Cox, Clinton. Mark Twain: America’s Humorist,

Dreamer, Prophet. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1995. Hunter,

Frank O. “Twain, Mark.” The World Book Encyclopedia, 1998

ed., Volume 19. Pg. 528-530

Kunitz and Haycraft. “Clemens,

Samuel Langhorne.” American Authors: 1600-1900. Pg.159-

161 “Mark Twain in Hartford” 28 May, 1995. Online. America

Online. www.courant.com/news/special/twain. 6 Feb. 1999

Meltzer, Milton. Mark Twain: A Writer’s Life. New York:

Franklin Watts, 1985. Twain, Mark. A Connecticut Yankee in

King Arthur’s Court. New York: Signet Classic “Twain, Mark.”

Biography Online Database. Online. America Online.

http://search.biography.com/print_record.pl?id=3500. 6

Feb.1999

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